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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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Pavlov’s Dog: EP
Here’s an obscure band from the early to mid-eighties, unearthed for another look. Beef People were based out of Virginia in 1984, where they released a six-song EP, Music for Men, and appeared on the TPOS double cassette compilation War Between the States. On this, you get seven songs, one being from the War Between the Sates comp. They remind me a bit of DOA and Fang, but with enough of their own style. It’s a bit raw in parts, all around rough, and a driving tempo. Very much of the time. “Industrial Jelly” is a slow, lumbering number with snarling vocals and a paper cutter with reverb. “Living in a Gas Chamber” is awesome with its time changes and odd bridge. Excellent record the whole way through. Comes with issue #25 of Artcore. –Matt Average (Artcore)

Split: 7”
Ringers: Opposite to my usual slide rule with things of this nature, the closer The Ringers get towards The Clash, the more they sound like a band making music on their own terms. It’s almost like they’ve found the key to the secret decoder ring that Rancid was fiddling around with for years. And with Saint Joe Strummer’s passing, I like hearing that banner being re-hoisted oh, so well. Totally on target. Blotto: Japan is a planet where echoes of America’s musical past can tidal wave on a 2008 shore without losing any of its initial energy. How does a band sound like themselves—Blotto’s a force to be reckoned with by themselves—but also seem to be sharing the microphones and amplification with The Replacements and The Jam in a way those bands never quite sounded? I don’t know; I’m no musical genius. But I do know that I like it. –Todd Taylor (Snuffy Smiles)

Drug War: 7”
Surprising stuff here. Competent and detailed hardcore with a great recording and the strange ability—almost entirely due to the vocalist—to sound like entirely different bands on each of the four songs here. I’m hearing Agnostic Front, Dead Kennedys (mostly due to the heavy sarcasm and mocking Southern accents in the song “Bible Belt”), Pennywise and, finally, Voodoo Glowskulls, again mostly because of the ragged and repetitive Spanish being belted out ala Eddie whatever-his-name-is from that band. Vocals are also fairly high up in the mix, which, at times, lends this thing a slightly cartoony quality that I could’ve done without, but as a whole, there’s some definite power here, and the sonic similarities to the aforementioned bands are definitely better off for being built off a hardcore template like the kind that Blowback’s laying down. Decent record. –Keith Rosson (String Break)

The Middle of the End: 7”
This Australian act gives us two songs here. One is an original tune and the other, “Let Go” is a cover of Frou Frou. You know, the song that has that line that lots of girls were putting on their MySpace pages last year: “There’s beauty in the breakdown.” Both songs sound good. The original tune, “Saw You Last Night,” has a little more energy—is upbeat and catchy as hell—while the Frou Frou cover is just a mellow pop song. Not bad, but nothing I haven’t heard before. Comes with a coupon for free MP3 downloads of both songs. –Kurt Morris (Hobbledehoy, www.hobbledehoyrecords.com)

Touché Honkey: Cassette
This incredible, awe-inspiring, lo-fi demo tape blew my mind. Out of nowhere (a.k.a. Georgia) comes Bold Slug, a Bananas-influenced sloppy pop band. Rather than record in a studio and later add effects to make it seem lo-fi, this band apparently recorded this sucker live and on a boom box. The tape itself is spray painted and brings back lots of memories from the demo tape era. “Back in the day,” hardly anyone would even review a demo tape.  Now Bold Slug and their goofily packaged tape is the sort of thing we’ve all been waiting for. This is some seriously fun shit here. –Art Ettinger (Self-released)

Self-titled: LP
This record’s packaging is boss. Like an ultra-thick sleeve, it’s the kind of cardboard (is that what LP sleeves are made of? It’s like a cardboard/paper stock, right?) the band Chicago used in their mid-‘70s heyday. Jazz rock and thick LP sleeves. Bitchin’. Anyway, I’m glad this record by Broken Strings doesn’t suck like a Chicago album—it only has a thick LP cover in common with the gods of ‘70s rock. (For good measure—fuck Chicago and every record they ever made. All of them.) Broken Strings—their bio thing mentions California post-psychedelia. Not so much ‘cause I have, like, all of those records (the Rose Garden, Byrds, the Association, etc.) and Broken Strings doesn’t sound like a descendant. Broken Strings sounds more like the Wipers, Syd Barrett, and that pop trio Cheap Time that just came out. That’s a great pedigree to me….Awesome record. And that’s rare—an awesome record. P.S. Where are you Nick Tosches? Chicago is still around and you’re not trashing their records like you used to. –Ryan Leach (True Panther Sounds, www.truepanther.com)

Self-titled: CD
Their lyrics have a socio-political bent and it’s fairly clear they have a certain affinity for Marxist thought. The music is pretty solid when it takes a minute to slow down a bit and ride a heavy groove, but too often they opt instead for the same über-fast hardcore template, turning much here into parts of one long song that wasn’t much interesting to begin with. –Jimmy Alvarado (Know)

East/West: CD
Bridge And Tunnel whisk me away to an era of rampant sweater-vestery and when Morning Again and Harvest were names that meant something to more than a few people. With their Our Own Wars-type feel, American Football-style fretwork, and occasionally Fugazi-esque delivery recall a time when some unquestionably embarrassing “new-school straightedge hardcore” trend-hops eventually led to my discovering Hot Water Music, thus paving the way to my becoming a part of the wonderful community of DIY punk rockers I’ve called home for some time now. The guy/gal vocals in this band are perhaps the best combination thereof that I can think of, whether singing separately or blending together seamlessly, and, lyrically, Bridge And Tunnel are a cut above most of their musical kin, usually looking out instead of in. There are some seriously goosebumpy moments on this record, and I can’t wait to see these songs played live. Killer. –Dave Williams (No Idea)

Resignation Day: CD
Watertight melodic punk that’s as close to perfect as this genre of music can get to. The record just feels good, like palm-sized rocks itching in your pocket as you pass an abandoned warehouse with some windows still left unbroken. My hat’s off to Nate Gangelhoff (bassist, songwriter, author of You Idiot and Whiskey Plus). Nate and I have corresponded for many years, and he sent over early demos of many of the songs on this record; they were formative, the tracks were supported by a drum machine. It was good. The skeletons of the songs were there, awaiting flesh. Resignation Day—and I don’t say this lightly—is on par with Rivethead’s The Cheap Wine of Youth, Off With Their Heads’ All Things Move Toward Their End, and Dear Landlord’s scattered vinyl tracks. Gruff, direct, plainclothes Midwest punk. Not fancy. Not tricky. Not gimmicky. Not precious. No make believe. Just direct, continual, and literate, shot after aching shot. It’s the album-form answer to “What are you going to do with your life when you’re old enough to completely and utterly fail on your own?” Do you rise up with lumps or lay down and place the blame on something else? –Todd Taylor (Go Kart)

Resignation Day: CD
This album is so goddamned good. I thought their EP and split with Monikers were great, but this record is head-and-shoulders above that earlier output. I’ve heard a few people drop Screeching Weasel comparisons, which I suppose is somewhat accurate, but I feel like there’s more of a Rhythm Collision pop punk thing happening here, with some undeniable Jawbreaker action thrown in there. The production is somewhat subdued or maybe a bit lacking in dynamics, but I think it works incredibly well in recreating that distinctive and super-sincere ‘90s sound, intentionally or not. I honestly can’t stop listening to this record. –Dave Williams (Go-Kart)

Resignation Day: CD
I bought a “super limited record release version” CD-R, which I thought ruled. Until it didn’t work. Damn! But I got a “real” copy, which I feel is less cool. Anyway, this is a pretty great follow up to Pass the Poison. It’s pretty similar, and kind of reminds me of a more aggressive version of the later era Lookout! Records pop punk. At first I was surprised by how trebly the whole thing sounded compared to the EP, but it went away quickly when I realized just how great some of these new songs are. –Joe Evans III (Go Kart)

Uppror Underifran: CD
If early Swedish hardcore is within your radar, Avskum should be in your sights. Basically recording and performing since the early ‘80s, the band continues on with its tradition of the d-beat. With experience and how well this release is recorded and written, it shows that they are still one of the premier bands from that region doing this genre of music. Sixteen tracks of near flawless blasts of charging guitars, pounding drums, and bass guitar drive that should get the blood pumping. The vocals are yelled out with conviction and expressed with controlled anger, showing that the singer truly believes what he sings. Songs are sung mostly in Swedish, but there are a few in English. Overall, I was engulfed by the energy of the music right from the beginning of the opening chords. I felt my teeth gritting closed with force and soaking in the musical abrasiveness. –Donofthedead (Prank)

I Want to See Every Tower Fall: 7”EP
Maybe it should bother me a bit that Autistic Youth are hella reminiscent of The Observers (RIP), but it doesn’t. All the parts are in place: mid-paced songs, bubbling bass, surf-edged guitar, a guy who can really sing and who punctuates like he’s spitting out bullets; what should be a throwback is a step in the right direction. If you’re up for melodic punk that’s as much about broken glass, the broken state of the world, clarity of delivery, and can incorporate a tambourine in a way that sounds like it’s being played by someone in a gas mask instead of bellbottoms with leather fringe, then this if for you. Happily surprised at how strong these four songs are. –Todd Taylor (Rock Bottom)

Self-titled: LP
This is dark, brooding crust with a self-described addition of Swedish death metal. This band from Spain knows how to take dark emotions and play a musical soundtrack to it. The band Tragedy comes to mind when hearing the music, but it’s not exactly the same. They tend to work with the formula and add elements to make it their own: a big sound with an underlying melody with charging punk metal riffs. Very deep, almost guttural vocals set the tone for the dark landscape that the music portrays. The lyrics are in Spanish and I have no idea what might be behind them. Judging by the music alone, I know it’s not pretty. Overall, a good listen and not a dud in the bunch. Co-released by Contraszt!, La Agonia de Cicir, Be-Part, Devil Child, and Behind The Scenes. Now get on that computer and search! –Donofthedead (Contraszt!)

Come on Let's Beav’: 10” 45
It appears that this Dutch garage rock band from the ‘90s has reformed and released a 45 RPM 10”. If only these guys’ magical genie would come along and grant them a wish, maybe they could travel back to the 1960s and record these eight songs in the most authentically way out and reverby way imaginable and not in this energy-less form where everything feels really forced and uninspired. And even maybe if I saw them live in some Wisconsin bar—Old Style in hand and stomach—and Rev. Nørb was explaining why they were so great, I’d like this, but right now it’s just kind of annoying me. –Daryl Gussin (High School Refuse)

I’m a Bat!!! I'm a Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal: 7”
This jokey garage band from “Gotham City, Austria” (get it?) deliver their second 7” of punchy, campy garage punk. Limited to 500 copies, the packaging includes a cutout moustache to wear while enjoying the fine tunes as well as a glossy Gotham Gazette faux newspaper. I guess fans of garage punk haven’t started growing facial hair in Europe yet. In any event, this hilarious and rockin’ release won’t disappoint those looking for new, comedic garage punk fun. –Art Ettinger (Bachelor)

Valencia Marca Registrada: LP
From Spain comes this hyper punk band that draws from the late seventies and early eighties. The guitars are noisy and jangley, and no distortion pedal is in use! Everything else is held down with straight-forward rhythms and a quick pace that won’t let up. They do slow down a bit of the song “Valencia,” which is catchy as hell, and throws some stop-start breaks to keep it interesting. Then they rip it up again with “Sang a Les Mans.” A few other standouts are “Seitan,” “Anys Perduts,” and “You Smoke You Die!” Great record, without a doubt! –Matt Average (Trabuc)

Now That We’re Alive: CD-R
Annabel is a three piece indie pop band from Ohio. They’ve got nice melodies and know how to put together a good song; that is for sure. Their sound is really pure and friendly. There’s not much on the five songs that would be off-putting. I should also mention they have nice DIY packaging with a piece of cardboard covered in flannel cloth with a little pocket for the CD and tray card to sit in. The songs seem nice to listen to on a sunny day with your window open, and yet, I can’t see myself really becoming super excited about a band like this. Then again, they are playing The Fest this year, so that’s got to count for something, right? –Kurt Morris (Self-released)

All God’s Children Have Shoes: CD
When Petty lets his guitar/banjo/whatever do the talking, the music is fine minimalist American roots music. When he starts singing, however, things go downhill fast. Though he can hit the notes fine enough, his voice lacks enough conviction or feeling to make the songs work. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.voodoorhythm.com)

Split CDEP and Shitstorm: CD and CDEP
Amen And The Hell Yeahs: These dudes drove from 1,895 miles one way, from Minneapolis, MN, to Riverside, CA, to play one show: Awesome Fest II. They didn’t make a tour of it. They just wanted to play. Simple as that. When I asked them what they did for work, they said that they worked for an asshole wine distributor and they’d have to cannonball it back home the next day. They were young dudes, very sincere, and totally down. The music follows. It’s simple, sloppy, direct, and fun. Nothing mind erasing, but real solid and full of promise. The Manix: Do you think it’s possible to channel the crowd’s reaction to a great, past band? The Manix don’t sound much like “Kids Don’t Follow”-era Replacements, but I can totally imagine someone in The Manix being in the audience, and soaking in all of that drunken, catchy, alcho-poetry, going home, and starting a band of their own (twenty years later; a bad analogy, I know), and forming with a band that just wanted to continue to harness that feeling. Good stuff, both bands. –Todd Taylor (Heart Of The Lakes)

Split: LP
A split with two up-and-coming bands from Germany. Alpinist: Seem to have the formula right. The music is pummeling and dark while falling in the crust genre. Screamed vocals power forward through the speakers as the charging guitars cut through. Amazing drumming that is far from generic. They’re definitely an apocalyptic journey of sound. I just wish it was a bit more bass heavy and darker. To me, it sounded a bit bright. Finisterre: My personal favorite of the two, the band plays more of traditional d-beat meets crust than the latter. But they also infuse a sense of melody under the distortion. It adds to the music and gives it more textured layers. Not a pretty sound in the slightest, though. The music is mid-tempo but is bottom heavy and played with a mean streak of anger. Also, the guttural vocals add to the picture of unrest that I believe they are portraying in their songs. Another co-released by Sengaja, Acclaim Collective, Phobiact, Subversive Ways, Bad Pingu, Humidad y Honestidad, Contraszt!, and Threat of Today. –Donofthedead (Contraszt!)

Pessimism of the Mind, Optimism of the Will: 7”
I’d like to be nice, but I don’t think I can. This is probably the most bothersome record that I’ve received to review in a long time: extremely annoying shouted vocals over clean guitars and obnoxious drumming. I guess I don’t “get” it. –Dave Dillon (Fashionable Idiots)

No Brownie Pie, Same Old Shit: CD
First bad sign: an empty roll of toilet paper on the cover. Next bad sign: the word “Shit” is censored. I think if you’re writing the word “shit” on the surface on which it normally goes, you are more than justified to leave it uncensored. Last bad omen: in their thank yous, they claim to have “constant rock star attitudes.” Sigh. This is sluggish and inconsistent pop punk, and while I’ve heard worse, it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. Is Drive-Thru Records still around? –Will Kwiatkowski (Bone, www.bonerecordschicago.com)

Self-titled: CD
This is a riddle: What would a band sound like if they sounded sorta like Radon, but approached it from a completely different angle? The instrument tones are similar. The lead singer’s voice sounds like one of the two Radon singers. But then, it was a different deal, a different focus altogether: lean, clean, flexible songs that rely on inner dynamics to recede and explode. Radon’s funniness is exchanged for straight-ahead earnestness straight through. In a world that made any sense to me, The Achievement would be “emocore”—emotionally bare and charged songs that almost feel like the singer is singing, alternately, directly to you and to versions of himself in the attempts of some deeper understanding, backed up by an band playing interesting music that’s not afraid to either charge or relax. I’d go so far as to say that The Achievement are a direct descendent of Rites Of Spring, but a band all to themselves… and with this record, this Salinas, CA, trio broken up. Thems the shakes. –Todd Taylor (Self-released)

Long Walk, Short Pier: CDEP
Newer band from the Boston area that pulls its sound from a few different genres. Punk, thrash, metal, crossover, and hardcore can be heard in their take of anger music. They may start out playing a chunking, heavy riff at one moment and then change it up with blasting beats. A great feeling of manic rage but with energy that is consistent and fierce. Music that you want to play in your car with the windows down to offend nearby listeners while you are screaming at the top of your lungs. A reference that comes to mind is that this band reminds me a lot of Fall Silent. Especially the vocals with its screamed yet controlled output. With a band name like 26 Beers, I really thought I wasn’t going to like this. Musically, they won me over. –Donofthedead (Rodent Popsicle)

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